The Judd Apatow-directed films Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin mark the pinnacle of a new comedy sub-genre which has been growing steadily over the past decade. Working with the same crew, and casting from a pool of regular actors, who often contribute to the writing too, the productions are largely of a good standard, with some exceptions at both ends of the spectrum. Amidst the ever-growing list of titles we have some truly excellent (normally Apatow-produced) work, from the outstanding Superbad – easily one of the best of this flavour of comedies – to the disappointing Year One, another nail in Jack Black's premature coffin. There are plenty in-between though, including the enjoyable Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a pretty good romantic comedy about a guy who goes on an island retreat to get over a messy breakup with his long-time girlfriend, only to find that she is holidaying there with her new beau, a pretentious Brit rock star. Personally, I didn’t think it was up to the standards of the best of this sub-genre (the titles listed above), but it was very watchable, sporadically laugh-out-loud and strangely endearing. Amidst its myriad colourful characters we were introduced to said off-the-wall rock star, Aldous Snow (played by Brit Russell Brand), who most viewers would have found pretty unforgettable. With the surprise success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it’s no wonder the producers would be interested in more material in the same vein, so now we have the spin-off feature, a story formulated around Brand’s unique character, Aldous Snow, entitled Get Him to the Greek.
Alcohol and drug-riddled rock star Aldous Snow is all prepped for his latest, greatest album, releasing a daring single, African Child, which sees him comparing himself to Jesus. Written off as the worst thing since Apartheid, his music plummets through the charts and he is soon regarded as something of a pariah. Trying to clean up his act, he finds his newfound sobriety is too boring for his girlfriend, Jackie Q, who promptly ditches him and takes custody of their child, herself going on to be a massive pop sensation. Aldous reaches an all-time low, turning back to drink and drugs, getting into violent scuffles with paparazzi and causing outrage at awards shows and on interviews. Meanwhile Aaron Green is an ambitious young talent scout for a record company in LA. Living with his medical intern girlfriend, his passion lies in music, and he proposes to his aggressive boss that their company should revitalise their finances by setting up a massive concert to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the last time Aldous Snow did a live performance. Shot down immediately, his boss later realises the potential in this pitch, and sends Aaron to England to pick up Aldous, ensure that he promotes the concert, and then get him to the stage on time. He has 3 days to do it, and they will be 3 of the longest days of Aaron's life.
Russell Brand has always gone that little bit too far to suit my tastes. He’s charismatic and eccentric, but a little bit over the top in his seeming desire to shock, kind of like a Mick Jagger lite. Even his character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was pretty (albeit intentionally) vacuous – but the extended cameo role worked extremely well because it was just a small dose of him. So initially I was quite sceptical about Brand taking centre stage in a movie. Then again, I felt reassured by the presence of Jonah Hill, Superbad alumni, who has proved himself to be reliably witty (in that unconventional, improvisational kind of way) in numerous movies. Honestly though, after seeing the movie, Russell Brand totally owns this film. He could so easily have gone for shock tactics through and through – if you watch the first few minutes (which will still have you in hysterics) then you expect them to go a certain way with the character. Lewd public behaviour, constantly stroking his nipples, leering at every girl around him with his tongue hanging out. He oozes metrosexuality, and they could have cashed in on everything that has always been associated with the name. But they go in a different direction. And I’d like to think it’s because of Brand. I’d like to think he pushed them in this direction because I’d like to think that this is the kind of man he really is – overtly arrogant and sexual; excessive and uncontrollable; yet inwardly quite a vulnerable, introspective, troubled and possibly even lonely kind of guy. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all – but it makes him so much more human, and infinitely more likeable, to see that he actually has a heart. Personally, I think Brand makes this movie, and I really never expected that to happen.
Jonah Hill’s a dinky little child-man actor – perfect to play a teen as per Superbad, despite being 16 – but here, unlike in Superbad, where his size totally suited the character, he looks very uncomfortably (and unhealthily) bloated. Tight clothes, carrot jeans (who actually likes them??), the whole package looks like it was designed for another actor entirely. Thankfully he is on good form. Not top form, not classic Jonah Hill form, but pretty damn good nonetheless. And his character requires him to basically do all of the things that you would have expected from Brand’s Aldous Snow (largely on the premise that he is protecting the ‘star’ for his own good, as well as catering for his wild tastes), so there’s plenty of ensuing drug-taking, alcoholically-intoxicated debauchery that ensues – leading to lots of funny sequences. He’s also a great foil for Brand, a Hardy to his Laurel – and that’s a hell of a compliment for this modern comedic duo.
The humour isn’t non-stop, and it does fall flat once or twice, but you generally don’t lose momentum through the almost-relentless jokes, and it will – occasionally – have you laughing out loud. From the initial proclamation of being like Jesus, to Sean Coombs’ (aka P Diddy) wonderful turn as a mindf**king studio exec, to Snow’s cuckoo-crazy ex (played by Rose Byrne, looking absolutely stunning), to Aaron’s intern-girlfriend – who just assumes Aaron’s job isn’t as important as her own, to the eventual fall and rise of a superstar; it’s a well-structured, satisfyingly long comedy which never outstays its welcome even if it won’t have you calling it the next Apatow-productions ‘classic’. They still push the boundaries a couple of times, but at least you don’t have to put up with Jason Segel walking around stark naked in the name of ‘humour’ (as in the first film, Sarah Marshall), and at least the women are actually topless at the damn strip club, and, all in all, it’s generally quite a well-meaning film – with a heart – despite the fact that it never ever drops into saccharin territory, not even coming close.
Personally, I preferred Get Him to the Greek to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I enjoyed both movies. They are quite endearing films, even if they don’t greatly stand out from the rest, and Greek benefits from its focus on a pair of well-matched misfits (if you see what I mean), a classic odd couple who battle the odds and come across as a hilarious pair. Aldous Snow was, with 20:20 hindsight, a brilliant character to spin-off into his own movie, and it does truly work here – the opening fake music video, “Africa Child” should have you sold right from the get-go. Well worth checking out, particularly if you’re a fan of this sub-genre of Apatow-produced modern comedies. It’s also– for once – fairly deserving of the quote on the disc cover: “This year’s Hangover” as it is, indeed, this year’s fun, eventful, R-rated comedy road-trip (The Extended – i.e. Unrated in the US – version is discussed more fully in the Extras). And, honestly, it is worth seeing just for the fact that Russell Brand absolutely nails the role – even sceptics, and those who don’t particularly like him, might just find themselves persuaded otherwise after this. Recommended.
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